Saturday, January 04, 2003

Be sure to wander on over to The Belligerent Bunny's Bad Movie Shrine. Anna just posted a review of the movie Wings that makes mine look like a booger. She's even got pictures and everything!

Friday, January 03, 2003


The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Plot- Members of the same family find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the U.S. Civil War.

Director D. W. Griffith is said to have given birth to the epic movie. This is his squalling love child in all it's wrinkled glory.

This incredibly racist film is also chock-full of firsts in the field of motion pictures. First color sequence (at the end of the film). Longest film up to that time at close to three hours. First use of natural scenery as a backdrop. First use of night photography (using magnesium flares). First use of closeups to reveal expression. First use of panning shots, cutting between scenes to generate tensions, and the creation of an original score.

But this is about a war movie, and "Birth of a Nation" was also the first time that large battle scenes were filmed using hundreds of extras. Well worth the price of renting alone.

You can tell that the director and the cinematographer were really interested in screwing around with the equipment. Most of the film is shot and edited to look like Civil War photographs. Most of the techniques that we take for granted today were invented for this film. If you're interested in the history of film or the nuts-and-bolts of making a movie then you should take a look.

Still, you should be warned that it's also a blatant propaganda work for the KKK. The protrayal of blacks in the film is little short of astonishing to modern audiences. Even at the time of it's release it was widely condemned, and it was even banned in many Northern states as being an attempt to promote racial hatred. The criticism was so widespread that D.W. released a movie called Intolerance in 1916 in an attempt to prove that he really wasn't a racist. Didn't work.

Anyway, the film is worth a viewing even with all of it's warts. Just don't write me Email claiming that I condone the racist message.

1) Pre-mission parties always go well if there's plenty of fireworks and beer.

2) It's best to start an op with as low a profile as possible. Completely unobserved is best.

3) If the enemy despot is named "Sauron" and the enemy general is named "Saruman" then they're probably related.

4) Get off the road!

5) Any troops stupid enough to steal stuff from out of the back of the General's personal vehicle (and get caught red-handed) are stupid enough to actually volunteer for a suicide mission.

6) Anyplace on the map labelled "Mt. Doom" is bound to have unpleasant terrrain.

7) When on a deep-cover op, don't schedule a meet-and-greet in a bar. The stupid volunteers are sure to blow your cover just as soon as they get a few beers.

8) When your cover is blown don't spend the night in the hotel room you had rented right before Pvt. Dork spilled the beans.

9) You might be dying for a fresh meal, but stick to MRE's when you're manning an observation post on top of a freakin' hill.

10) Don't bunk down at the O.P. and leave Pvt. Dork in charge.

11) The daughter of an allied country's head-of-state might be a babe, but keep your mind on business.

12) When sneaking through an enemy installation, keep your eye on Pvt. Dork and make sure that he doesn't try to pick up any freakin' souvenirs.

13) When going in to combat always wear your vest.

14) If the overwhelming enemy force suddenly retreats in disarray while something producing a red glow and plenty of noise approaches, I don't need to stand around and wait for the General to tell me that it's time to bug out.

15) If the enemy general gives pep talks to the troops by promising them that they "shall taste man-flesh!", then assassination should not be ruled out.

16) Sometimes you have to finish the mission with a smaller team. Try to make sure that Pvt. Dork is one of the guys who's left behind.

17) When traversing broken ground at the run while carrying a full load try to breathe. Remember, breathing is the key.

18) A utility knife called "Sting" might be good enough to intimidate 3 foot tall mutants, but I want something that will really strike fear in the heart of the enemy. Like Ka-bar.

19) If you pick up a stray don't take it off the leash no matter how much it whines.

20) A few suicide bombers will always get through no matter how good the sniper on the wall happens to be.

21) Never send all of your combat troops off to assault the objective. Always keep a company or two around HQ in case a surprise attack is launched from nearby wooded areas.

22) Tall, skinny and blond soldiers might get the girls and look good on the recruiting posters. But if you're gonna jump in the middle of enemy troop concentrations and desperate close-quarters combat is at hand then you want someone who's short, mean and strong as a bull at your back.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Blog goddess Natalie Solent states that "Boxing Day" is when boxes of presents are supposed to be passed out.

I thought you were supposed to do something entirely different on Boxing Day. Looks like I better get busy writing some apology cards.

A certain bunny who will remain nameless has suggested that readers really want reveiws of cheesy movies. Unfortunately, said bunny has already cornered the market on that kind of cheese. In a desperate effort to appear to be creative while ripping off those with more imagination than myself, I decided to post a few reviews of war movies. But they're gonna be silent movies and they're gonna be good silent war movies (at least I think that they're good. You might have a different opinion).

Wings (1927)
Plot- Childhood buddies join up in WWI in the hope of becoming fighter aces while their galpal joins the ambulance corps to follow them.

Like most early films the hammy acting is hard to get past. The movie is pure melodrama, the tear jerking scenes go on for far too long, and the plot contrivances would have caused a scriptwriter for the original Star Trek to get fired. But there are four things that make this movie well worth the time.

Winner of the very first ever Academy Award for Best Picture. See how it all got started only to eventually lead to Gladiator (which was an entertaining movie, but Best Picture?) First ever movie appearance of Gary Cooper, who has a cameo as the room mate of the two stars when they enter flight school. Contrast Mr. Cooper's laid back acting style with the hysterics of the two leads. That's why Gary Cooper is still a household name while no one except film historians remember Buddy Rogers or Richard Arlen even though both of them had long and distinguished careers.

Another first is that galpal Clara Bow has a topless scene (don't blink or you'll miss it). Once considered a sex symbol of the accessible girl-next-door type, Ms. Bow was so popular that they called her "The 'IT' Girl". She also rarely took herself or her fame seriously, which is illustrated with this photo (damn, you don't have to be Freud to figure that one out).

But we're talkin' about a war movie here, and you can't have a war movie without battle scenes. The dogfight scenes are second to none, even in this day and age of special effects. Director William Wellmen was a WWI fighter jock himself, and he bolted cameras to real surplus fighter planes and had actual combat veterans fly them. It has a realistic look that can't be reporduced by using actors like this guy.

Don't take my word for it. Go rent it and see it for yourself.

Stephen den Beste has another really long and thoughtful post up for all to see. It's about negotiations and diplomacy and making a deal. He makes the point (amongst others) that every so often war is necessary between nations even though no one wants it and everyone considers it to be an evil thing. One sentence in the post had a special resonance for me.

"In particular, it depends on whether you acknowledge that a moral person may sometimes deliberately act in a manner which is evil because doing so supports a greater good."

You should all go on over there and read what he has to say since I'm not doing Mr. den Beste's post enough justice. But that one sentence started me to thinkin'.

The first guy I ever fingerprinted was pulled over for a traffic violation, didn't have an ID and was acting suspiciously. He started to go with the program but turned violent after I managed to get the first print. The arresting officer was there (procedure), so he maced the guy and slipped the cuffs on. Ohio law states that with no positive ID a suspect sits in a jail cell until he gives up his fingerprints, but this guy had pissed me off by trying to fight me so I ran the single print. Seems he had beaten a young child to death and our latent print examiner had pulled his prints off of the corpse. Gotcha!

There wasn't anything I did that any other fingerprint tech would have done. This just happened to be the first guy I printed after my training and I'm hardly some sort of hero, and I certainly can't be accused of having any particular insight as to the nature of the perp (the arresting officer who first became suspicious and brought the guy in to ID deserves the credit). The main reason that this situation made such an impression is that it's one of the few times I can be absolutely certain that my efforts had a result. This is rare in law enforcement.

But some might argue that I performed an evil act. See, I knew for a fact that this guy would be killed while in prison by the other inmates but I sent him along anyway. Few people who hurt children last very long inside and this guy wasn't big enough or tough enough to survive. Considering how hard he was fighting he knew it, too.

There's debate about the death penalty but it's part of the due process. What my first "client" could look forward to was his own murder, plain and simple. It's debatable but an arguement could be made that I'm an accessory. The only way I could have helped him avoid his fate would've been if I had committed a crime myself and concealed his identity, and he almost certainly would have been picked up again in a week or a month. But there are those who would say that smaller crimes are justifiable to protect a man's life.

The way I look at it is that the perp made his own bed and that's that. We don't have the money to build enough super max prisons so every inmate can be kept in isolation, and it's impossible to fully control the behavior of people who're in prison for violent crimes. If the only way to end the threat to little girls is to send people like that to places where they're almost certain to be killed then too bad. If there's a clear danger to innocent lives due to past history then anything, anything to protect those lives is justifiable. The only room for debate is in deciding the amount of force that's necessary to achieve this necessary goal.

We're all individuals who apply our narrow experiences to bigger issues, and I have a similar attitude when it comes to international affairs. Wage a war in Iraq even though they're not a direct threat to us right now and innocent civilians will suffer? Sure, you bet! Iraq under Saddam has the potential to become a major catastrophe and he's proven that he will ignore diplomacy. Regime change in Saudi Arabia through fair means or foul? The situation doesn't warrant military action yet, but the decade's still young. Use nukes if the North Koreans launch an invasion? Considering what happened the last time, it might be the best way to stop the conflict with the lowest number of civilian casualties.

So am I a savage? A cowboy? A throwback to an age where might made right and law was what the strong let you keep? Some people might say so but I don't think so. After all, I'm only advocating this sort of action if other methods fail to produce results. I'm just enough of a realist (or savage) to think that force is sometimes necessary.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

There's two items that I saw at The Guardroom that I'd like to comment on.

Dog Piss in a Can
I've always told my students that pepper spray is next to worthless. I've seen it used 6 times and it's never done a thing that I could see. Chemical mace, now, that's a different kettle of fish entirely. I've seen CS spray used about 50 times and it always stopped the fight right then and no foolin'. My advice has always been to get something with the good stuff in it, even if it's tough to find something that doesn't have pepper juice in it.

The reason I mention this is due to this post. It relates the story of a female rookie security officer who was attacked by a 70 year old man. He managed to get her on the ground and was pulling her gun from it's holster even though he had been pepper sprayed! If that stuff won't stop a 70 year old attorney then I'll leave it to your imagination as to what will happen if you try and stop a 20 year old crack addict with it.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Incarcerate
Boston is in trouble because of a budget crunch, so they've tried to reduce firearm violence by arresting those responsible. It probably won't be a shock to anyone that shootings fell sharply as soon as the small percentage of the criminal population responsible for the majority of armed assaults were behind bars.

What probably will shock everyone is that most of these punks have been arrested many many times before for assault and firearm offenses. One guy had been arrested 122 times and the courts still let him back out on the streets!

I'm glad I don't live in Boston.

In a move that's almost certainly an attempt to gain points with western societies, Bangladesh has commissioned 20 women officers in it's army. This is extraordinary in that Bangladesh is predominately Islamic.

One might say that 20 officers isn't much, but one also has to consider that there's only 100,000 troops in the entire armed forces. 30,000 women applied for the jobs, so I hope the powers-that-be took the oppurtunity to pick and choose and get the best of the bunch. As for the newly minted LT's I wish them all the best of luck. They're gonna have a lot of crap to put up with. Pioneers always do.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Let's face it, most of the reasonably priced surplus rifles look like crap. The wooden stock is old, scratched up, with a finish that looks like it was applied by dragging the gun through the mud. The blueing has worn off in spots, and there might even be brown rust somewhere. Why not buy new?

There's a few reasons. Some guys who are good with their hands and have a wellspring of patience that is far greater than mine own will buy one of these old peices and lovingly restore it. Little by little, over the course of years they'll buy the stuff they need to make a worn ol' rifle a real showcase of the gunsmith's art. It's sort of like the appeal of putting a jigsaw puzzle together. You have a jumbled mess when you start and a work of art when the last part is in place.

Me, I don't restore old rifles. I'll clean them up, touch up the blueing and make sure that everything is in good working order. Then I'll go and shoot them at the range. The appeal is that I'm doing something exactly as someone else did it over 100 years ago. Someone long dead held the same rifle. What did they use it for? Big game hunting? Did they carry it into combat?

Last year I was in a gun store and I spotted a .30-40 Krag rifle. This particular rifle had a stock in very good condition so it cost me $200.00 to take it home. It was made in 1895 and still shoots just fine and dandy. Why did I buy it? Because there's four little impressions in the stock right where the fingers of your left hand want to rest. Someone gripped the stock so hard when they shot the gun that they left a mark in the wood. Why did they grip the rifle that tightly? Were they scared?

Considering that the Krag was the U.S. service rifle during the Spanish-American War I'd have to say that the kid who carried the rifle probably was scared to death a few times. I hope my rifle saw him through it in one peice, but that's something that I'll never know.

Monday, December 30, 2002

So I'm googling around, looking for a pic of a Makarov pistol when I come across the page of some Russian kid named Makarov. He's an amatuer photographer (amongst other things) and I think he's got a pretty good eye. He put his work on his website so the whole world can either admire or condemn his stuff. He's even got some scans of his family photo album that he'll let you have upon request.

Go on over and surprise him with some attention from America.

So some Paris baggage handler was caught with some guns and explosives in the trunk of his car. It's pretty obvious that he was part of a smuggling ring, with his job to intercept otherwise innocent luggage and remove the guns'n'stuff before Customs got a chance to search.

He had a pretty good stash. One semi-auto handgun, one full auto assault rifle (the news article said that it was a "machine gun" but I doubt they know what they're talking about), and some blocks of plastic explosive with a detonator.

Heck, I wouldn't mind having the "machine gun"! It's illegal to own one of those in the U.S. without proper permits, paperwork and background checks. It's illegal to own one in France as well, but maybe I should just go to Paris and get one. Looks like it would be easier.

I doubt this bozo was caught the first time out, and someone could do a lot of damage with that hardware. Makes me wonder how many shipments over how many months or years this guy fished out of the baggage compartment and sent off to his buddies. I also wonder how many more guys just like him are wandering around collecting ordnance and spreading it around. Doesn't look good for France.

Run for your life! Computer expert Jack Burton has ferreted out research from Sweden and Australia that proves that your computer is about to kill you!

Run for your life! And keep watching the skies!

James Lileks is revamping his site. He's posted some pages that relate what he went through when his mother died. She died of cancer. She died slow. The post is very poignant.

What do I mean by "poignant"? It's just like those long daggers the duellists would wear: A poignard would go straight in your heart.

Mr. Lileks talks about what he felt and how he dealt with his loss with grace and talent. It got me to thinking, though. What would I do if I contracted a terminal disease?

End it. The sound of thunder and then nothing. I look at this as both an act of courage and cowardice. Courage because it spares the family the expense of a long illness. Cowardice because it's a selfish act to spare myself the lingering and growing pain. The only problem is that I'm a bachelor with no family.

I'll let my readers decide where that leaves me.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Really good article in Washington Monthly about how America has ever increasing numbers of women in combat.

Think about it for a minute. No matter if you agree or disagree with the idea of a woman under fire, consider the effect it would have on the Islamofascists to be defeated by a military with women in it.

This one's pretty good. Seems a cutey-pie young Japanese mom living in Canada became disgusted with all of the work that her 2 children, a 15 month old boy and a three month old girl, demanded of her. So she just left to go on a ten day swinging road trip. The newspapers say that the kids starved to death, but I think that they probably died after three days from dehydration. When she got home she wrapped up the bodies and slung one of them in the trash. The other body was left to rot. A keen-nosed building super smelled the stench and called RCMP.

So the Canadian courts give this sweet young thang 8.5 years. 102 months and she's out on the streets to resume her life. The bloom will be off this rose after all that time in prison, but I'm sure that she could find someone to knock her up. She'll have to move fast, though, since she's in Canada illegally after her student visa expired. They'll probably deport her back to Japan where her family will refuse to speak to her.

The Canadians repeatedly state that they're oh so much more civilized than the barbaric United States. They don't have the death penalty, for example. And they don't have long prison sentences so a considerable number of people are locked up indefinately.

I dunno. Seems to me that the Canadians should have changed their policy and imposed a stiffer sentence just this once.

We've all met someone who's self-assured. Someone who cheerfully tries to use circumstances to their own benefit no matter how outrageous. Blog goddess Natalie Solent has a post that relates a perfect example of this.

In Yiddish it's called chutzpah. I'm a mono-lingual American so I call it "havin' big balls".

I was just over at Innocents Abroad reading a post by Collin May. It's the first of a four-part series about morality and how it influences Europe, Canada and the U.S.

Mr. May is a very smart cookie, and he always has something insightful to say. The only problem is that he takes so long to get around to saying it. In this latest post, for example, he points out that the ICC is distasteful to the U.S. because the laws it wants to enforce are outside of democratic processes. He goes on to say that this is a form of tyranny.

Hey, look at that! I just presented two of the post's main points in two sentences where Mr. May had to use two (very looonngg) paragraphs. To be fair he dragged famed philosopher Emmanuel Kant in to the mix. Aristotle makes an appearance in the next paragraph. I just can't figure what those guys are doin' there, since they and their philosophies really don't come to mind when one wonders if the ICC is subject to the will of the people.

Anyway, this stuff is worth reading if you're interested in the subject. Just don't expect a point to emerge for awhile yet.